Interview: Michael Pasquale, Ph.D., Director of the M.A. TESOL Program at Cornerstone University


Michael Pasquale, Ph.D., Director of the M.A. TESOL Program at Cornerstone University, joins us today to discuss Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

1. Can you tell us about the Masters in TESOL (MATESOL) programs offered at Cornerstone University?

Our hybrid M.A. TESOL program started in 2005. We also have a Graduate Certificate in TESOL and K-12 educational endorsement program. In 2015 we will be launching a fully online MA TESOL program as well.

2. How long does a typical MATESOL program take at Cornerstone University? What is the maximum and minimum time of completion?

Our programs follow a cohort model and one course is taken at a time. The MA TESOL program (either hybrid or online) would take 19 months. Our hybrid MA TESOL program begins in July with a week-long course on campus and our fully online program begins in January. The endorsement program or Graduate Certificate can be completed in one academic year and both of these programs can be done through the hybrid or online program).

3. What do you think makes Cornerstone University’s MATESOL stand out from other similar programs?

Our cohort model supports a close learning community. Our small class sizes also lead to close faculty-student interactions and mentoring. It is our desire to see students not only join a program, but become part of a community for life. We have a strong academic reputation, but we also stress practical, classroom applications. Our faculty and students all share from their respective teaching experiences leading to a mutually beneficial academic experience.

4. How important would you say accreditation is when choosing a MATESOL program?

Accreditation is important and our program is reviewed as part of that process. Cornerstone University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. This process definitely helps a program stay accountable and regularly assess courses, faculty, and student outcomes. It is also important when searching for a MATESOL program to find out all you can about the faculty. For example, does the program have a core faculty with doctoral degrees? Do faculty participate in regional and national TESOL conferences. Are they published? Do students and alumni collaborate in scholarship with program faculty? Program quality is measured by all of these factors.

5. There is some debate as to whether or not Online MATESOL degrees are as worthwhile as traditional MATESOL degrees. What steps does Cornerstone University take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they'd receive in a classroom?

This is a great question and one that we have spent considerable time discussing and contemplating. We launched our hybrid MATESOL program nearly 10 years ago and discovered that it was important to develop a learning community while the students were on campus for orientation and the first course. The relationships developed in the learning cohort were important for encouragement and ultimately successful learning. When we designed the fully online MATESOL program we knew that community was also important. Since most of our courses were already delivered in the online format, the key attribute was finding a way to develop community outside of a face-to-face setting. This isn’t easy, but takes commitment from the faculty and students to make it happen. We utilize online programs like Skype or Google hangouts to create as much face-to-face time as possible. One of the things that we have found is that online learning can be very personal and student-centered. All students are required to participate in an online class and cannot hide at the back of a classroom as one can do in a traditional class. Our faculty have enjoyed the challenge of creating and developing these online learning communities!

6. What are the advantages to earning a MATESOL degree in general?

An MATESOL degree prepares students for a wide variety of positions in the US and abroad. MATESOL graduates can get an ESL job teaching adults in intensive (pre-college/university) programs, community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and workplace programs in the U.S. and abroad. Graduates with an MATESOL can be teachers, curriculum developers, teacher trainers or program administrators while working in North America or abroad. The MATESOL degree opens many doors in the educational field.

7. Does Cornerstone University offer job placement for students who graduate in MATESOL?

Cornerstone University has a Center for Career and Life Calling which helps to equip our graduates for the workforce. We maintain a list of teaching positions that we share with current students and alumni. Our alumni are also a great networking source for our students as well.

8. What type of financial aid packages are available for students in TESOL? Are there any fellowships, grants and scholarships available?

Federal student loans are available for students enrolled in the MATESOL program. For Michigan residents, the Michigan Tuition Grant may be available for students enrolled in the MATESOL, K-12 endorsement or Graduate Certificate programs. We will also accept a maximum of six master’s level semester hours to be transferred for advanced standing. A course must have been completed within the last seven years.

9. Do you have any advice for students enrolling in a MATESOL program for the first time?

Once you have decided to pursue an MATESOL degree, enjoy the experience! Be purposeful in making connections with fellow students and faculty. These relationships will help you excel while you are completing your program, but will also be a source of encouragement and networking once you are graduates in the field. Start thinking about professional development early on in the process – attend conferences, keep note of articles and books that were helpful to you so that you can refer to them later, and ask faculty for advice. I also encourage students to engage in scholarship beyond course requirements – collaborate on articles or conference presentations with faculty or classmates or write a book review. This type of activity will help develop your curriculum vitae once you start looking for jobs after graduation, … don’t wait until graduation to start thinking about professional development!

10. What do you enjoy most about your position at Cornerstone University?

I genuinely love my job! I enjoy working with students, they energize me! I love learning from them and hearing about their teaching experiences and their reflections on course topics. I also appreciate my colleagues and the passion they bring to the classroom. We have a great learning community of faculty and students and it is a privilege to work with them. We see the virtues of hospitality and hard work on display in our community.

For more information on the MATESOL programs offered at Cornerstone University, visit them online.

Thank you Michael, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!